But the U.S. House Judiciary Committee released documents and testimony yesterday showing that Rove did keep up with Alabama politics--including the legal difficulties of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman.
Rove even received an "Alabama News Alert" from a White House staffer, trumpeting the Siegelman conviction before it had appeared on evening newscasts.
Elliott Mincberg, chief counsel for oversight and investigations at the House Judiciary Committee, interrogated Rove about the Siegelman case.
Mincberg produced at least four documents that revealed Rove's keen interest in Alabama while serving in the Bush White House. The documents were roughly from 2000 to 2005:
Document No. 1: E-mail from Rove to Susan Ralston and Matt Schlapp
Rove sent an e-mail to Susan Ralston, one of his chief deputies, and Matt Schlapp, director of the White House Office of Political Affairs (OPA), attaching a copy of the April 12, 2004, Southern Political Report.
Mincberg reads a key passage from the article:
Q . . . It says, and I quote, With Governor Bob Riley having low approval ratings following his major defeat last year on a tax restructuring proposal, lots of Democrats are sending signals they might run for Governor in 2 years. Ex-Governor, Don Siegelman, who barely lost to Riley in 2002, has made no secret of his ambition to serve as Governor again, end quote.
Rove says he doesn't recall seeing the article, but Mincberg follows:
Q But in any event, it certainly stands to reason that Siegelman would be weakened if he was charged with crimes, correct?
Document No. 2: E-mail from Rove to Barbara Jo Goergen
Rove sent an e-mail to Barbara Jo Goergen, his executive assistant, attaching an article about federal prosecutors in Birmingham dropping the first case against Siegelman. It referenced the possibility of a Siegelman-Bob Riley rematch for governor in 2006.
Mincberg directs Rove to a section in the article that says, "The other Democrat who might run is ex-Governor Don Siegelman." This exchange ensues:
Q And going down the page, it discusses the fact that he is a, quote, "superb politician despite being dogged by several ethical clouds." Do you see that reference?
A Yes. You ellipsed out "losing to challenger Riley in 2002 by a mere 48.9 to 49.1."
Q And I'm happy for you to add that. It goes on to say, "This year could be different. Federal prosecutors in Birmingham had to drop their case against Siegelman when the judge threw out the major charge against him." Do you see that reference?
Q Do you recall seeing this?